I asked the doctoral student sitting across from me, “so, where’s your locked filing cabinet?” The student stared blankly at me. I repeated the question with emphasis, “where is your locked filing cabinet?” I also offered an example, “is the locked filing cabinet in your campus office?” The student finally replied, “I don’t have a locked filing cabinet, or an office on campus. The data I’m collecting is digital!”

I suspected her response, but I wanted to confirm. This doctoral student was new to research with human subjects. She was in my office to review her protocol before she formally submitted it. We had talked through several points and I saw her response to the question, “where will coding and data materials be stored,” that is why I asked her to explain.

In her case, she needs to consider how to store and protect the digital data she plans to collect. There are several online sources for how to manage digital data. Generally speaking, experts recommend these five tips to manage and secure digital data:

  1. UPDATE: Update software regularly.
  2. PLAN: Have a plan for retrieval procedures if a hard drive fails to work.
  3. PREVENT: Apply preventative measures (e.g., password protection, limit access to content, and encrypt files as needed).
  4. CONSULT: Consult technology experts or visit relevant websites to get the latest information on digital security.
  5. SAFEGUARD: Ensure the data is safeguarded and protected from unauthorized access at all times.

Check out what your institution has to say about digital data storage. For information on how to create a data management plan, visit this website or check out “Ten Simple Rules for Digital Data Storage” to ensure the digital data is secure.